Referring, of course, to the proposed U.S. legislation which could cause severe damage to the Internet—at least, that's what a lot of people are saying. See, e.g., this Open Letter From Internet Engineers to the U.S. Congress (the first signatory listed is Vint Cerf). On Wikipedia, people including Jimbo Wales are discussing strategies as extreme as blanking the entire site (except for an explanatory message) to get people's attention, and thereby perhaps incite them to action, such as calling their Congressional representative.
I just happened to find out about all this a few hours ago, being someone who tries to avoid distractions like most kinds of news, so possibly others here with similar habits will appreciate having it called to ther attention. Or possibly they won't. But to those of you who possess relevant kinds of expertise:
- Is it possible to project likely consequences of this legislation's being passed?
- What are those consequences?
- Assuming they are on net undesirable, what can be done that would be most likely to prevent its passage?
(I think this subject can be discussed without political advocacy, in which I am mostly not at all interested anyway. It just looks like a practical problem to me.)
Edited to Add: I forgot to include a fourth bullet point:
- Again assuming they are undesirable, what can be done to ameliorate|circumvent them?
It seems to have been assumed by many commenters, nevertheless.
For those who were wondering, SOPA.
So I know we're not supposed to get into this on LW (politics, minds, death, etc), but I figure opposing the censorship of the internet is alright to do.
Based on the entertainment industry's typical behavior (eg, issuing a takedown notice to YouTube over a song supporting piracy that they did not own the rights to), I'd expect mass takedowns of all sorts of things as soon as the legislation passes. Possibly a full shutdown of YouTube, megaUpload, and other sites deemed to be "encouraging piracy", but I wouldn't offer strong odds on that.
Additionally, you can expect other nations to get sick of random things being pulled from the DNS registries (basically huge lookup tables that tell your computer what to do with things like "www.lesswrong.com"; changing these to a "this page has been removed" page is the SOPA method-of-choice for taking a site down). An independent DNS network will probably be created, segmenting the internet into a US internet and a global internet. The final result (assuming the legislation stays in place) will be a US in... (read more)
SOPA will become US law and either Youtube or Megaupload will be shutdown.
An alternative to the US-based Domain Name System will be created and it will be used more widely than the US-based system before 2015.... (read more)
My prediction is that SOPA and PIPA will pass in pretty much their current form (if they haven't already); the "write your Congressman" campaigns led by EFF, Wikipedia, and others, will have a negligible effect at best. However, I also predict that, in practice, SOPA will not be used to shut down any major website, such as Twitter or Youtube, though a non-trivial number of startups, personally hosted blogs, and other smaller websites will be taken down. Instead, the media industry will forge a deal with Google, Twitter, Facebook and other website providers, wherein the media industry receives an easy mechanism to take down whatever content they want at the click of a button -- in exchange for a promise to never use the SOPA nuclear option against the website provider (*).
I also predict, though with lower probability, that at least one major court challenge will be brought up against SOPA/PIPA shortly after its inception. Should such a challenge be brought, I expect to see a drawn-out legal battle that spans several years and ultimately goes nowhere (other than a settlement, perhaps).
Once SOPA passes, I expect alternative DNS providers to put up a token resistance, then fa... (read more)
Make sure you know which "SOPA" you're referring to. This piece of legislation has undergone significant change from the version that sparked popular outrage.
Added after reading some other comments: if you've made cynical predictions about SOPA's progress through Congress or its effects in the real world, don't forget to update your beliefs on the eventual outcome. Write this prediction down somewhere.
Yes, I'm worried, but I'm not sure if there's anything we (as LW) can do about it. Writing/calling/etc. campaigns only work in mass, which, let's be honest, we aren't. Which is why I hope Wikipedia does something. Shutting down Wikipedia for a day would get everyone's attention. But it doesn't look like they'll do that.
Behold the power of trying: Boycott of Godaddy forces them to stop supporting SOPA.
There is nothing we can do politically about SOPA. If it gets blocked it will be back again in 6 months even worse (as has been happening for the last few years).
Even so, I'm not worried. The internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it. The hackers that built the internet and keep it running are much smarter and work much faster than the legislators. Short of becoming a china-level dictatorship, there is really nothing the mafiaa can do to stop it. The internet is here to stay.
DNS is the deliberately centralized part of the Internet. Big sites that host user content (Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Blogger.com) are a very large and very centralized part of the Web. Both are located more or less entirely in the US, and both are the explicit targets of SOPA. Furthermore, existing laws like DMCA have caused a lot of damage but have not been effectively circumvented or routed around.
Edit (thanks Wedfrid): please provide stronger evidence to support your prediction that SOPA will be routed around. The best proof would of course be a description of how to do it, but that may not be conveniently available. However, merely pointing out that there are some very smart people opposed to it is very weak evidence.
There are possible technological solutions to the problem of decentralizing the Internet. None of them are immune to their authors and redistributors being arrested or C&Dd, both in the US and in allied countries, under laws that prohibit "tools that aid copyright violations".
There aren't any publicly known technological solutions to the problem of decentralizing the Web, because people who don't understand or care about technology politics will not agree to leave Facebook et al.
You're correct, and thanks for pointing it out. I shouldn't ask for that proof in particular. I do however ask for some argument, other than "The hackers that built the internet and keep it running are much smarter and work much faster than the legislators."
The reason I'm not satisfied by this argument is that these smart hackers have bosses and legal departments and the core Internet routers and DNS servers have legal owners (who are not hackers) and are installed in non-secret and very expensive server farms (mostly in the US). Even if all the techies in the system were to organize together they could not overthrow or replace the rest of these organizations.
I do not accept the argument that they'll come up with something because they're just that smart. If it were true, I would expect many more of the long-standing problems of the Internet and the Web to have been solved. I would expect previous disruptive laws like the DMCA to be more effectively circumvented.
Wow. They actually followed through with it. Wikipedia is down!
I predict that the US Supreme Court will get involved soon after they try censoring ANY website not known exclusively as a place where stuff gets pirated, and rip the culprits a new one. The American political climate doesn't look NEARLY rotten enough to put up with this; all the lobbying for SOPA has simply been interacting with its most corrupt, out-of-touch part so far.
Most likely because last time a takedown case went to them, they ruled that it was a violation of the First Amendment to take down some unrelated content (stuff on the same IP block if I recall) while shutting down a child pornography website. People hate pedophiles even more than media pirates, as a rule, so I'd guess they'd rule in favor of free speech here as well.